In a general life update, we have just had our planned trip to Disneyland Paris cancelled, due to the Covid-19 outbreak. On the upside, we get to rebook up until 15th October for the same price, so we will be going in the Summer Holidays instead! Silver-lining – better weather. I appreciate that having a trip to Disneyland Paris postponed is a real first-world-problem, but obviously I would much rather that than risk spreading a virus that can kill those with underlying health conditions. Additionally, though, seriously stop panic buying! It’s fucking ridiculous. Rant over.
I am absolutely delighted at how much Ben enjoyed Cinderella. I expected him to like some of the films that we have coming up, but I didn’t expect him to be so enamored with a Disney Princess! Result!
Now, onto Alice in Wonderland. I am so excited to see what he makes of this one, as it is bat-shit crazy and I think he’ll be amused by the randomness of it.
Based on the ‘Alice’ books by Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland follows the title character’s trip down the rabbit hole into an entirely different dimension, where animals can talk, flowers can sing and every character appears to be completely crazy and without any sense of logic to their actions. It has characters that you will never forget, such as The Mad Hatter, The March Hare, The Cheshire Cat and The Queen of Hearts. So let’s see what Ben thinks of it.
In my opinion, it is amazing. It is truly one of the classic Disney greats. The creative team must’ve really enjoyed themselves with the script, as some of the lines are utterly astounding and the animation is truly beautiful. If you are planning on showing a Disney classic to someone that is a Disney virgin, I would highly recommend showing them this one.
Cinderella succeeded in making this Disney cynic at least a bit less apprehensive about continuing this journey through the Animation Studios films. Much like the post-war era that houses the Animation Studios films that we’re currently trawling through, there is now some optimism and hope going forward, with dreams of peace / good films, as opposed to the previous decade which was overshadowed by war / The Three Caballeros.
So 1951 brings us Alice in Wonderland. Oh boy. It’s hard to know where to start. I’m once again going to have to deviate from the normal ‘say the ridiculous things I see’ approach that I usually take to reviewing these films. I mean, I attempted to write notes during this film whenever something inexplicable happened, but within fourteen minutes my arm cramped up and my pen literally exploded (not literally). It was at this point I realised that I needed a change of tactics here, as this is no normal movie. My god is that an understatement. What’s the point of trying to find WTF moments in a film that is designed to be WTF, in some fantastical WTF world?
Furthermore, trying to note-take in a film like this, is contrary to how a film like this is supposed to be digested. By that, I mean the viewer is supposed to either be a child with an imagination that is yet to be restricted by the confinements of the conditioned grown-up mind, or a student that is so off their face on narcotics that if they’re not totally transfixed by the pretty colours, or transcending to a place where the random sequence of events is processed in some life-altering way, they would probably be convinced they are a werewolf or trying to eat the fridge. As I cannot revert to a childlike state, and also think that the kids telling stories of that time dad went strange, watched ‘Alice In Wonderland’ and kept them awake all night howling at the moon, may be viewed by some as somewhat inappropriate. I had to find a different approach.
I found this approach at around the twenty-five-minute mark. With my pad and pen set aside, I sat back and stared at the screen, with my body relaxed and my eyes slightly glazed, and let the experience vigorously penetrate my mind. Almost literally a ‘mind-fuck’ if you will. But by attempting to stop the forces that are compelling me to question and resist, as well as allowing the film to create its very own psychedelic haze around my brain, I’m in some way mimicking both the demographics I mentioned above and everything starts to make sense. Sort of.
After I watched ‘Bambi’, I entered what would become known as the ‘post-Bambi’ phase of my existence, where all joyous things were slightly darker around the edges and happy events were / are interrupted by the faces of scarred fawns (and now also cute little oysters, but I’ll come back to that later). If this review seems even more skittish and unfocused than usual, this is because I’m now in a phase known as ‘post-Alice-In-Wonderland’, where clocks are fixed with tea and jam (this bit is amazing, which I’ll come back to later as well) and animals have inanimate objects for faces. I apologize for my meanderings, but a surreal film deserves a slightly surreal review, so grab half a cup of tea and firework cake containing a mouse attached to an umbrella and go with it…
When I studied art at school, I was fascinated (well, reasonably interested. I know I paid attention rather than doing my usual staring out of the window until the bell rings at least…) by the surrealists, particularly Salvador Dali. I found it curious that, to me at least, despite all the pieces being things that were either not where they were supposed to be, with what they were supposed to be or they were supposed to be, some ideas seemed to make sense and others seemed forced. Some works felt tenuous and others, surprisingly, didn’t. For me, the same rings true with the scenes of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Despite the absurdity of ‘The Madhatter’s Tea party’, there feels like cohesion and direction in amongst the chaos. I fricking loved this part of the film and it’s definitely my favourite Disney segment so far. I especially love the Mad Hatter proclaiming that the rabbit’s clock is exactly two days slow. The problem is apparently caused by the wheels inside it. His attempts to fix it involve pouring tea on it and spreading jam, butter and mustard (sorry, not mustard, that would be silly; lemon) inside it. I know it’s a famous scene and I can see why. But for every Madhatter’s tea-party however, there’s a story about ‘curious oysters’ or playing cards singing about ‘painting the roses red’ that didn’t hit the same spot. And that’s just my opinion. I’m sure every scene will float different people’s boats.
There are a few things that occur in this film that require extra attention, so let’s return to the start. It’s notable, just like in the adventures of Mr Toad from a few films back, that Alice and her mother are SO English, that the film must have been produced in America. That stereotypical ‘tea and cucumber sandwich’ English that Americans go crazy for. Sorry, apparently this is her sister, not her mother. Ok… I find that hard to believe. Let’s be honest here, this is her ‘sister’, which is basically just how people in Victorian times would cover up a pregnancy outside of marriage. Alice is bored of normality and wants her own world full of nonsense. Within 4 minutes she’s singing and taking to birds. Why is there always so much singing and talking to birds? She spots a white rabbit that is late for something and decides to follow him, without really giving a satisfactory reason of why she feels she has to. One can assume that the ‘what the fuckness’ of this occurrence would cause most of us to do the same though, so I’ll let her off. She runs after him with her cat in tow, and then we reach a moment that I feel needs to be discussed here. After chasing the rabbit into an unpleasantly tight warren, she falls down a seemingly bottomless hole. The normal reaction of falling down a seemingly bottomless hole would usually involve much screaming, cursing with perhaps a small amount of soiling oneself. The reaction to falling down a seemingly bottomless hole, will never be, and I repeat, never be TO LOOK AT YOUR CAT AND HAPPILY WAVE AT HIM WHILST EXCLAIMING “GOODBYE!”
Another thing that pissed me off: Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. I’ve heard the names many times, mostly when two people are being particularly stupid, but never knew really who they were or from where they were referenced. At least now, when someone mentions them, I can now say “Ah yes, I know them! They’re from Alice in Wonderland! Fuck me, they suck!” There are two reasons for this suckiness (goddamn spellcheck, leave me alone!) in my opinion. Firstly, the way they won’t leave Alice alone is too reminiscent of “the nutter on public transport”. By that, I mean the dude who comes and sits next to you on the bus or train and repeatedly talks at you, pays no attention to your lack of engagement, and invariably ends up telling you exactly why the police were in the wrong to have an arrest warrant for him. The second reason is the story they told about “The Walrus, The Carpenter and The Curious Oysters”. I don’t like this story. Here are the oysters:
They’re cute little oysters. Innocent and… well, curious. Just like babies with their shell bonnets in their shell cots. They have happy smiles and big wide eyes; these creatures have been almost humanized and possess all the traits that people biologically find adorable and feel compelled to protect. The walrus eats them. The fucking walrus eats them all alive. We’re not at Bambi levels of “hey, let’s fuck you all up for shits and giggles”, but we still have another example of Disney joyously using animation as a vehicle for sadistic dickery. You can tell when something pisses me off as the cursing increases dramatically. I’ve cursed quite a lot in twelve Disney reviews…
At one point not long after, Alice walks into a Rabbits house, goes up to his bedroom and steals one of his biscuits. Not only throughout this film, does Alice react to the absurdity with almost soulless ease, she, at times, also really oversteps the mark in what would be considered socially acceptable. The biscuit makes her grow to the size of a house, which is problematic as she’s in a house, which results in her wearing the house like some sort of weird armour. She has no one to blame but herself. That being said, when a big bird comes along and starts singing about “smoking the blighter out” and generally showing zero compassion or interest in her safety, I can’t help but feel that they should be a bit nicer. But that is a recurring theme of this movie; It seems that most of the people she encounters are complete and utter arseholes. I think that this is supposed to interpreted that the moral here is ‘even if it is more exciting, nonsense isn’t necessarily better or for that matter, nicer’. Or ‘anything outside the norm is bad’. Hmmm, not sure how I feel about that.
After Alice eats a carrot to shrink herself, but manages to shrink herself too much (I’ve almost completely stopped overthinking occurrences like this even in this relatively early stage of the film), we get our next example of arsehole-ness. The flowers ridicule Alice for being weedy, and one flower lifts up her skirt. Not cool.
Speaking of not cool, the Queen of Hearts. I really hate the Queen of Hearts. I know you’re supposed to hate her because she’s a dick, but I find I hate her in a way that makes me want her gone from my screen rather than being compelled to see her comeuppance. The other problem with this segment is that including a stronger and slightly more defined plotline here (at least compared to the previous segments) exposes the lack of depth throughout the film as both its strong point, and its weak point. Let me explain. The lack of substance really worked to the films advantage for most part, as not being given motives or understanding, the ‘wheres’, ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of people/animal’s actions made them that much more random and for, most part, funny. When you start including at least slightly more lucid plot points, such as a sham trial from a bad-tempered queen, that lack of depth makes it a damn sight harder to stay invested in how it plays out. I would have been happier if Alice had just met more good-natured lunatics that were involved in harmless meaningless shenanigans, such as the Mad-Hatter for example…
Elsewhere, Alice part-sings and part-cries her way through a song that I will skip through whenever I watch the film again, a caterpillar makes letters and shapes out of smoke from a shisha pipe and we have a mischievous cat that can turn invisible and stand on his own head. Events that are no more and no less absurd that happenings throughout the rest of the film.
In all, watching this film can certainly be classed as ‘an experience’. It’s not quite the sort of princess fairy-tale, cute animal in peril, nor Donald Duck squawk fest, that I have mostly been exposed to so far, but it was certainly unique, most definitely unforgettable, and in several parts enjoyable. Especially when Tweedle-Dee, Tweedle Dum and the Queen of Hearts were not on my screen anyway…